Rachel’s story begins in her bedroom – a mess of unwashed tights, half-empty biros and over-spilling ashtrays. It’s the kind of room your mum would look at and say it looked like a bomb went off in it.
When we first impose on Rachel’s sanctuary, picking through the detritus of teenage life to reach our seats, we meet a brash, loud, young woman absorbed in her own world, yelling over the songs streaming into her headphones from a disc-man. Initially, she comes across as a smug, lazy, self-proclaimed artist lounging long-legged in fish nets and shorts in her adolescent version of Tracy Emin’s bed installation.
“I’m perfectly content to be mediocre,” she drawls. She seems aggressive and unlikable but all of a sudden, the hair is tied back and a softer, more interrogating, humbler Rachel emerges. She shares her stories of a being born, growing up, going to school and university in the same town before finding herself in Gaza, where she joined non-violent protests supporting the Palestinian people.
My Name is Rachel Corrie is a piece of verbatim theatre, taken from the journal entries, letters, emails and answering machine messages that were left behind after Rachel was killed when she stood in the path of an Israeli military bulldozer which threatened Palestinian homes.
Mairi Philips, who performed this one-woman show in the production’s original run at the Citizens Theatre in 2010, does an impressive job of telling Rachel’s story over a wordy two hours. When the action switches from Rachel’s home in Olympia, Washington to Rafha in the second act, reminders of home are torn down and replaced with protest banners. Stacks of books of Russian literature are switched with breeze blocks. Small changes made to the set and Rachel’s increasing frustrating with what she’s witnessing make home feel very far away.
There’s some clever manipulation of props. A sweetly witty scene between Rachel and an ex boyfriend is played out by angle-poise lamps. Jumpers and cardigans peek over a bundle of blankets, the empty clothes of so many Palestinian children at risk taking cover in the family home.
From the amount of sketch books, collages and the speed of Philips’s delivery at points, there must have been a huge amount of writing to get through. Editors Katherine Viner and Alan Rickman have done an impressive job of creating a narrative as patchwork, which paints a rich portrait of an ordinary young woman’s experiences in exceptional circumstances.
My Name is Rachel Corrie will resonate with middle class Western young people. Rachel’s story documents the natural growth we all go through but under more challenging surroundings: checkpoints, gun towers and curfews. The inclusion of archive video draws out the most touching portrait of Rachel. A fellow international campaigner makes a statement reporting her death. He’s barely older than Rachel’s own 23 years. His voice quavers as he tries to make sense of what he’s witnessed. Video cuts to a speech given by a fifth grade Rachel passionately speaking out against poverty. Seeing this fiery girl delivering a heartfelt speech at a young age makes you think, maybe Rachel was an extraordinary young woman all along.
My Name is Rachel Corrie is touring Scotland until 9 March. For more information and tickets see www.mulltheatre.com.